Saturday, August 1, 2015

P4 What you need for healthy Christian growth - How pastoral ministry, church body-life and small group ministry can work together

Acts 2:46-47 "Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved."

Introduction and review
The overall pattern and design of the Christian life is to grow onward and upward in the Lord. Such growth may experience seasonal declines, however the vast majority of the Christian life ought to witness advances and an overall pattern of change. Passages such as 2 Peter 3:18 explicitly command us to grow up in our walk with Christ: "but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen." Peter also writes in 1 Peter 2:2 "like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation." Like the Apostle Peter, the Apostle Paul also explains the need of healthy Christian growth. Romans 12:2 is but one example - "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." 

God has prescribed three main ministries in the local church to ensure the spiritual healthy of Christians. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 4:12  "And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart." We will be exploring two chapters (Ephesians 4 and 1 Timothy 4) to discover what I am calling "the 3-braided rope" of healthy Christian growth in Christians and the church, which includes the following:

1. Pastoral ministry (1 Timothy 4; Ephesians 4:11-12)

2. Church-body life (Ephesians 4:13-24)

3. Small-groups (Ephesians 4:25-29)

We saw yesterday how small-group ministry is used by God in developing relationships within the church. Sunday School is a prime example of small-group ministry that meets (typically) on Sunday mornings before the main church service. In addition to church body-life and pastoral ministry, small group ministry fills in that relational gap that would be otherwise missing in the church. All three ministries are needed in the spiritual health of Christians and churches. Today we want to conclude this series by understanding how pastoral ministry, church body-life and small groups interrelate to one another.

How pastoral ministry, church body-life and small groups interrelate
Pastoral ministry aims to equip God's people to do the work of the ministry. A pastor and the pastoral office which he occupies has been vested by God with that "37,000 foot" view of the big-picture. However the pastoral ministry cannot effectively minister to all the details of church life without the second element - church-body life. Getting involved in the local church enables God's people to perform the ministry. In a healthy church, the pastor mainly (not exclusively) equips the people to do the work of the ministry. Indeed the pastor ought to model what it means to serve. A good pastor will equip his people so that they, not him, will shine for the glory of Jesus. 

Then lastly, small-group ministry provides the relational glue within the church body. The more relationships there are being built, the pastoral ministry and church body can only benefit. Each serves the other. Without pastoral ministry, there is no church-wide equipping, exhortation, vision or congregational care. Without church body-life, church members will show up but not see the need to express the gifts God has given them nor see that their individual needs play second fiddle to others. Then without small-group ministry, relationships cannot be expected to be built, trust increased nor unity reinforced. All three of these ministries are necessary of Christians are to experience healthy Christian growth in their lives.  

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